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With spectacular coral reefs, majestic marine animals like Hammerhead Sharks and Manta Rays as well as incredible shipwrecks; the Maldives are one of the most exciting and varied scuba diving regions in the world.
Diving in the Maldives is only possible via liveaboard – of which there’s a fair few. This means there’s an excellent and varied selection of choices.
However – the disadvantage of this, is that choosing the best Maldives liveaboard for you can be somewhat overwhelming.
This is due to the huge variation between different Maldives liveaboards in terms of price, itinerary length and onboard facilities, to give just a few examples.
Fortuantly for you, being massive scuba nerds we at Diving Squad have compiled this whale of an article presenting up to date reviews of the very best maldives liveaboards.
To begin, simply select your preffered price range – and we’ll do the rest. Let’s dive in:
The Maldives is located in the north-central Indian Ocean, roughly one thousand kilometres southwest from the Indian subcontinent.
This tiny South Asian nation is comprised of a long and narrow chain of some 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks grouped into 26 atolls; separated by broad, deep channels.
In total, only about 200 of these islands are inhabited.
Because the Indian Monsoon current sweeps along this island chain, supplying the abundant coral with rich nutrients, the ecosystems here are both vibrant and relatively untouched.
Vast numbers of fish are attracted by the nutrient supplying currents and divers can expect to see Parrotfish, Snappers, Napoleon Wrasse, Fusiliers, Jacks and Sweetlips wherever the water flows.
Such currents mean that much of scuba diving in the Maldives is drift diving. As a result most (but not all) liveaboards in the Maldives require guests to already have some diving experience.
Within the atolls, rocky pinnacles locally known as Thilas rise up to scratch the waters surfaces; providing a safe refuge and excellent observation point for sessile marine life such as colourful soft coral and invertebrates.
Between the atolls lie deep and broad channels which contain many swim-throughs, caverns, caves and overhangs. They’re waiting to be explored by bold divers who will marvel at the colourful sponges, gorgonians and crustaceans within.
A little removed from the shallow water reefs divers can visit cleaning stations and frequently witness Wrasse and Cleaner Shrimp servicing Turtles, Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, and many shark species including Whale Sharks.
Historically the varied assortment of Thilas and shallow water coral surrounding the islands has made the Maldives a dangerous place for sailors. The numerous shipwrecks in this region add testimony to this.
For more information on diving in the Maldives scroll down to our top dive sites section.
Video Credit: MaldivesDiveTravel
Late December – Early May: Diving High Season: This is typically the calmest and driest stint of the year. The Northeast Monsoon season rolls through making for excellent diving, with calm waters, warm temperatures and great visibility of up to 100ft.
From May onwards water visibility reduces somewhat due to planktonic blooms, but these attract Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.
Late May – June: Diving Off Season: This is the transitional period from the Northeast Monsoon to the Southwest Monsoon and is characterised by intense rain and potentially very rough seas.
This is typically considered to be the worst diving time of the year in the Maldives although liveaboards do still run at this time.
July – early November: Diving Low Season- The Southwest Monsoon continues, with intermittent rain and choppy seas. This results in intermittent and often low visibility, although on some days, this isn’t the case. Diving is certainly possible, but more unpredictable in these conditions. This time sees much lower numbers of divers visiting the area.
Late November- Mid December: Diving Off Season- This is another transitional period as the Southwest Monsoon is replaced by the Northeast Monsoon.
It is characterised by rough seas and stronger than usual currents. It is therefore considered a poor time for diving at most locations. Many Maldives liveaboards don’t operate for this time period.
The majority of Maldives liveaboards offer four diving itineraries, usually ranging from 7 – 14 nights. The Classic Route departs from Male atoll and starts with seeking out manta rays and other pelagics as it travels in a counter clockwise fashion around to Ari atoll.
The Central & Southern Routes take divers from Male to the atolls of Felidhe, Malaku and Huvadhoo. Here, deep channels offer scuba divers the chance to witness multiple shark species including white tip and even hammerhead sharks.
The Central Route includes Rasdhoo, Ari and Laamu atolls where scalloped hammerheads, grey reef and white tip sharks can be spotted in addition to whale sharks, manta and eagle rays, especially round Laamu atoll. Sometimes divers even spot Blue Whales. Not too bad right!?
The Southern Route let’s divers discovers the Huvadhoo atoll in more detail. Here, reefs are abundant with colourful fish and invertebrates, in addition to numerous Eagle Rays.
For those wishing to (literally) push the boat out, the Northern Route takes divers around Male, Rasdhoo, Baa, Lahviyani, Noonu and Ari atolls.
Baa, Ra and Nonu atolls are a favourite among underwater photographers as they presented a vast assortment of beautiful underwater critters, including Frogfish, Maldivian Sponges, Eagle Rays and Grey reef Sharks.
You can find out which routes are available for each of our favourite Maldives Liveaboards within the review section.
For a more in depth, satellite view of the Maldives, you need only head over to Google Earth.
Velana international Airport is the only airport in the Maldives which receives international flights from multiple destinations. It is located on Hulhule Island in north male atoll, near the capital island, Male.
Fortunately, this is the departure point of all Maldives liveaboards – most of which will be happy to arrange collecting you from the airport and transferring you to the ferry.
The Maldives requires that international visitors have a passport that is valid for six months from their expected departure date as well as proof of sufficient funds and an outward travel plan. You will automatically be granted a 30 day visa on arrival which can be extended to 90 days if requested.
Our favourite website for booking cheap and flexible flights is without a doubt Sky Scanner
The towering pinnacles and sweeping channels that comprise the subsea world of Ari Atoll are a pelagic lover’s heartthrob, as giant manta rays and sleek sharks dart here and there.
You have excellent chances of spotting schools of fearsome-looking hammerhead sharks, or massive flotillas of mantas during the Maldives manta season, taking advantage of the prevailing currents that swirl around the pinnacles.
Be warned, however, those same currents can be strong and quickly throw a wrench into a beginner diver’s trip, so take care and listen to the dive instructors.
This atoll has earned UNESCO reserve status thanks to its beautiful reefs, the coral and marine life that reside within, and its smattering of thilas – undersea islands.
All of these factors work together to make it a dream Maldives scuba diving destination!
The corals are home to any number of small fish species to catch your eye, such as wrasse, midnight snappers, and moon fusiliers.
If you venture out into the channels, you can find the larger sea dwellers; majestic turtles and rays drift by and reef sharks – such as white tips and greys – move here and there. It’s not uncommon to spot whale sharks in this area as well!
The prevalence of strong currents of varying strengths through the numerous channels around Vaavu Atoll make it an ideal location for both beginners and advanced divers.
Beginners can start cutting their teeth on current drifting, and veterans can explore exotic overhangs and caves. The currents tend to attract larger marine life, as white tip reef sharks and eagle mantas flock to the area to feed during the peak Maldives manta season.
You’ll also find splashes of coral here and there as they take up residence on the channel ridges and host large schools of lunar fusiliers.
Vaavu Atoll Highlights:
Vattaru Reef- Vaavu Atoll certainly has its fair share of strong currents coursing through its channels.
While phenomenal for spotting large pelagic marine life, this can be daunting for new divers.
Vattaru Reef, however, is the perfect sheltered respite from these currents, as you drift along its edge and greet the butterflyfish, wrasse, and reef sharks that frequent the area.
You’ll also marvel at the great splashes of colour that the collection of corals, sponges, and fans provide.
Miyaru Kandu – Yet another phenomenal dive site on Vaavu atoll is the Miyaru Kandu.
This deep channel allows you to drift with the current as you ogle at the large pelagic fish nearby that may be doing the exact same thing, such as manta rays and reef sharks.
Towards the end of the channel, you’ll find a series of caves that often hide groupers within, as well as a ridge where you may have the opportunity to spot a hammerhead shark or two!
This atoll is simply bursting with corals, reefs, overhangs, shipwrecks, and caves; all of which are sure to keep you busy and keep your jaw squarely in the ‘dropped’ position.
You’ll see entire schools of coral-dwelling fish, such as wrasse and bluestripe snappers.
As you follow the colorful reefs to more open waters, you’ll glimpse sea turtles and reef sharks. If you’re searching for shipwrecks, Skipjacks 1 and 2 await your inquisitive eyes as you explore what remains of these two ships that have called the atoll home since the 1980s.
There you have it, diving squad mates! We’ve covered the very best the Maldives has to offer in terms of liveaboard diving experiences and put you well on your way to an epic diving trip.
You have your pick between luxury, shorter, longer, technical, beginners and more; we’re confident you’ll find the perfect fit for your style! Just sit back, take your pick, and get your Maldives liveaboard adventure rolling!
Have fun and stay safe, eh?